Businesses Get a Second Opinion on Health Care

Tony Perkins, Family Research Council | June 30, 2014

The Executive Branch has plenty of powers, but picking and choosing who can exercise their faith isn’t one of them. That was never clearer than today, when the U.S. Supreme Court delivered one of its most significant rulings upholding religious liberty in a generation. Almost two years to the day of leaving the President’s health care law intact, the justices took a second crack at ObamaCare, this time toppling one of the most oppressive pieces ever implemented: the HHS mandate.

With headlines full of the President’s mistakes, one of his biggest was forcing American companies to either pay for pills and procedures that violate their beliefs or pay crippling fines. Of the more than 100 challenges to the mandate, the Supreme Court took two: Hobby Lobby Stores v. Burwell and Burwell v. Conestoga Wood Specialties. Like millions of other Christians, the Green (Hobby Lobby) and Hahn (Conestoga Wood) families couldn’t imagine paying for health care coverage that could end a pregnancy.

“These abortion-causing drugs go against our faith, and our family is now being forced to choose between following the laws of the land that we love or maintaining the religious beliefs that have made our business successful and have supported our family and thousands of our employees and their families,” David Green told reporters at the beginning of the family’s long legal journey. “We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate.”

By a 5-4 decision, the justices agreed they shouldn’t have to. Business owners, the Court ruled in a severe blow to the administration, should be able to operate their companies in a manner consistent with their values — not the government’s. For companies across the country, it was finally time to exhale after an exhausting battle that threatened the jobs, livelihood, and health care of millions of Americans. The First Amendment, argued attorneys at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, isn’t exclusive to individuals. It applies to organizations too.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration never takes either into account when it comes to their agenda of sexual tyranny. As he has for six years, President Obama’s team insisted that the “right” to sex-on-demand trumps Americans’ First Freedom, a privilege millions of men and women have died to protect.

“Since [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act] applies in these cases,” the Court ruled, “we must decide whether the challenged HHS regulations substantially burden the exercise of religion, and we hold that they do. The owners of the businesses have religious objections to abortion, and according to their religious beliefs the four contraceptive methods at issue are abortifacients. If the owners comply with the HHS mandate, they believe they will be facilitating abortions, and if they do not comply, they will pay a very heavy price — as much as $1.3 million per day, or about $475 million per year, in the case of one of the companies. If these consequences do not amount to a substantial burden, it is hard to see what would.”

During oral arguments, Justice Anthony Kennedy seemed incredulous that the Obama administration had green-lighted other religious exemptions if the mandate “was so critical to public health.” “It must have been because the health care coverage was not that important,” he argued. The justices pounced on that inconsistency in their opinion: “Although HHS has made this system available to reli­gious nonprofits that have religious objections to the con­traceptive mandate, HHS has provided no reason why the same system cannot be made available when the owners of for-profit corporations have similar religious objections.”

So, five justices did it for them. For the first time in the history of the Supreme Court, justices recognized a company’s religious rights under the Constitution and federal law — creating a business opt-out for owners that have a moral objection to the mandate. At Conestoga Wood headquarters in Pennsylvania, I was with the Hahn family when the decision was handed down. After the cheers and applause, we had a time of prayer thanking God for the decision protecting religious liberty. Like modern-day Daniels, the Hahns and Greens have stared down the lions of religious intolerance — and won a victory for the entire nation.